Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

At times the workplace can feel like a battle ground of competing priorities and resources. Securing the budgets, rosters, staffing, access to materials, equipment and facilities you need can be a challenge.

To survive you might assume you need to be a skillful warrior defending your turf.

Sadly, an adversarial, combative approach can lead to casualties and toxic work environments. But what is the alternative? Surely if you don’t fight to win you will end up the loser?

Fortunately, there is another approach that doesn’t rely on winners and losers and is far more efficient and productive.

It is simple and effective and when used with skill and commitment will transform the experiences you have at work.

It’s influenced by the principles of the Harvard Negotiation Model developed by Ury and Fisher. To make it useful, let’s keep it simple and call it the you, me, we approach.

'You and me'

The approach is all about shifting our focus.

Rather than seeing ourselves as opposing warriors battling to protect our positions, we move towards being fellow warriors battling a common problem.

Begin by approaching the situation genuinely wanting to understand the other persons interests and priorities. Ask quality questions— ‘Tell me what you need?’ Then genuinely listen. Check and clarify that you have a clear sense of their interests— ‘I want to make sure I accurately understand what you are saying. From what you are telling me, it seems like you need...’

Then offer your perspective— ‘Let me explain my interests and priorities’. Check and clarify that you have adequately explained your interests and priorities— ‘I want to make sure my explanation is clear and understandable, based on what I have said what do you think I am needing?’

Ready for 'we'?

With a clear understanding of the interests and priorities you both have, you can now move to working together — ‘So, what are we going to do about this?’ (I've added bold to illustrate how, you, me, we  works. Don't emphasise those words when you say them.)

It takes effort and skill to put this approach into practice, but the gains are worth it. You'll preserve your positive working relationships and, rather than simply winning battles, you will be solving problems and producing results.

Interested in a workshop for your team leaders?

Seem familiar?

I want to talk about a project, You want to focus on writing your report. I have an animated phone conversation. You need to think in silence. I like to eat apples while I work, You get annoyed by the sound of my chewing.

We are promised that open plan offices will help us to communicate and collaborate with colleagues. The reality can often be very different. 

 It’s not surprising really. Put any group of people together in close quarters with limited privacy day-after-day for hours at a time and what happens? There is the possibility of distraction and disruption resulting in irritation and frustration.

You might not be able to avoid the distraction and disruptions. What is possible is avoiding (or at least limiting) the irritation and frustration. But, to do that you need some skills.

One important skill to learn is how to let others know clearly and calmly what you do or do not want.

Try the STAR technique

STAR has its origins in behavioural job interviewing, but you can adapt it to everyday work situations.

STAR stands for Situation Task Action Result.

You can use the STAR technique to let colleagues know how their behaviour is affecting you and what you need. It helps you to do that without getting personal or emotive.

Use STAR to organise your thoughts

First, identify the effect of the person’s behaviour.

When I am working at my desk (Situation)

Trying to meet a report deadline (Task)

And you keep talking to me about your project (Action)

I find it hard to focus on my report writing (Result)

Now, use STAR to identify what you need.

When I am working at my desk (Situation)

Trying to meet a report deadline (Task)

I would appreciate not being interrupted (Action)

So that I can focus and meet my deadline. (Result)

Keep it real

It's time to talk to your colleague. To keep it real you won't  use the exact words you prepared. But as part of a natural conversation you will be more able to clearly and calmly state what you need.

It’s not the only tool you need to handle the challenges of open plan workspaces, but it will make a big difference. Practise using it and you’ll find that things will often run a lot smoother.


Interested in a workshop on achieving more in your open plan office for your team?